Interdisciplinary Effort to Study Bacteria in Space Featured in Barnard Magazine

Tuesday, June 7, 2022 - 16:30
Columbia Student Payload Opportunity with Citizen Science (SPOCS) students standing in front of the NASA Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB)

An article about an amazing interdisciplinary effort driven by undergraduate students to study bacteria in space, which involved the lab of Dr. Lars Dietrich, has been published in Barnard Magazine.

The Dietrich lab, and particularly PhD student Bryan Wang, collaborated with former astronaut Michael Massimino, who teaches mechanical engineering at Columbia, and students from across multiple disciplines to “send bacterial biofilms to the International Space Station (ISS) to investigate how they behave in a microgravity environment.” Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, two of five NASA-designated “medically important microorganisms” have caused serious infections in astronauts, which makes understanding their behavior “vitally important as space missions continue to develop, including those that send scientists and citizens into orbit.” 

As Dietrich told Barnard Magazine, “The basic research might have consequences for health and for new treatments. It is absolutely important to just know if [these bacteria] change their ability to resist or to tolerate antibiotics. But we could also find something completely unexpected. Maybe there’s something about the conditions on a space station that make them do something we wouldn’t even expect.” 

You can read the full article, “Bacteria in Space” by Marie DeNoia Aronsohn, in the Spring 2022 issue of Barnard Magazine. 

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